The Netherlands / Story

The liberation as a birthday present




Jan Kornelis Wiersema turns 18 on Sunday 15 April 1945. Parts of Groningen have already been liberated, but the Vismarkt where he lives with his parents is unfortunately still in German hands. More than seventy years after the war, when he goes to sleep, his clothes are ready so that he can put them on in the dark.

A habit that grew during the war years when there was another air raid siren. Friday, April 13, sand was brought to our house to seal the hatch and window of the basement. I lived with my parents and sister at the Vismarkt, number 28a, on the south side of the market. We had a nice view on the Korenbeurs. My parents had a pension. In the afternoon we heard the thunder of the guns in the distance.”

Jan and his parents take cover. “Under our house was a large cellar. We were there with sixteen people.” German soldiers set fire to a shop and the fire spreads quickly. Everyone started lugging furniture. Suddenly a German patrol car full of soldiers appeared from the Guldenstraat. They aimed their weapons and everyone raised their hands. A bizarre sight: a Fish Market full of household goods and people with their hands up. Everyone had to go back inside. So the furniture remained. In our basement was a man who let his wife rush him to go outside. Grandma's beautiful locker was outside in the open air and it was going to rain soon.'

The fire goes out. Ruins appear. "It was the first and only time my birthday was not celebrated. My mother still said to me: 'It was your birthday, wasn't it?' Nothing else. And that was fine too. I had been given a wonderful gift: the liberation.”